Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins
The compact Sportage SUV is the longest-running nameplate in Kia’s US history; therefore the vehicle’s impact on the family lineup is pertinent to its overall strategy. But, more importantly, was the need to revamp the 5th generation model with new design cues, a refreshed interior, and adventurous amenities for thrill-seekers like myself. Currently on sale, the 2023 Kia Sportage is a stylistic gem with a boatload of utility, capability, and offerings from seven diverse trims.
We headed to the beautiful lands of Palm Springs, CA for a few days of immersion with the Sportage to experience its updated power and AWD layout on flat and curving roads and the custom-built Kia off-road park to get down and dirty with the little guy. Starting at $25,990 for the FWD LX, Kia buyers can choose between the LX, EX, SX, SX-Prestige, X-Line, Sportage X-Pro, and X-Pro Prestige, depending on your particular lifestyle and daily habits. For example, if you frequently hike, camp, or mountain bike, the new X-Pro would suit your needs perfectly since it’s engineered for those specific environments. I was intrigued to see our Jungle Green (black roof) test unit maneuver in and out of ruts, creep down inclines, and rummage through slippery, dirt roads using BF Goodrich all-terrain tires and AWD with a center locking differential. AWD Sportage models sit 1″ higher than FWD models and offer a total ground clearance of 8.3-inches. Pricing tops out at $36,790 for the AWD X-Pro Prestige model. The destination charge is an extra $1,255.
Hybrid efficiency and performance are introduced in the 2023 Sportage. I enjoyed the smooth getup of the 1.6-liter Turbo Hybrid (227-horsepower), 6-speed automatic (paddle shifters), and 44 kW electric motor over the X-Pro Prestige’s 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gas engine (187-horsepower) and 8-speed automatic transmission pairing. As a result, acceleration was more assertive and confident. The combined fuel economy is 38 mpg for the hybrid versus 25 for the 2.5L. There is also the option of the Turbo Plug-in Hybrid powertrain. Multi-terrain drive modes (Normal, Sport, Smart, and Snow modes) is tuned explicitly for Sportage X-Pro to help decrease wheel slip, monitor downhill braking control, and increase traction.
The new Sportage looks more prominent than its price represents. Regardless of vehicle classification, consumers do not want a value or cheap-looking ride, even if it is a value or cheaper model. For the 2023 model year, the Sportage has grown 7.1″ in length, .5″ in width, and .5″ in height. Cargo space and second-row legroom have also increased. Feeling light on its feet and well-balanced, Goodyear Assurance tires provided excellent on-road traction and reduced noise when I drove the Hybrid EX AWD. I also enjoyed the larger 18″ machined finished alloy rims in this model, the enormous sky sunroof, LED interior lighting, LED exterior lights, and the Smart Handsfree Power Liftgate.
Inside, the Sportage is clean and refreshing with an array of tech features and thoughtful design schemes. A new curve display integrating dual 12.3” infotainment and 12.3” cluster screens preside over the highlights. Or you may have an 8” touchscreen depending on the model chosen. My reggae rhythms sounded terrific from the Harman Kardon premium audio system and Apple CarPlay worked seamlessly. The 360-degree Surround-View Monitor with a 3D view is pretty cool if you opt for the upgrade, and there is always a need for a Wi-Fi Hotspot. A touchpad bar below the screen doubles as the climate and audio controller. Extra USB ports are located on the side of the front seats for rear passengers to access and SynTex animal-free leather represents the seats but natural animal skin is used in other parts of the cabin. So this marketing decision is pretty strange. It’s akin to going to a vegan restaurant that serves fish.
Safety is always at the forefront of a Kia vehicle and the Sportage continues the dependability reputation of the brand. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems include Driver Attention Warning, LED Headlights with High Beam Assist, Lane Following Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Forward Collision-Avoidance, Rear Occupant Alert, Rear View Monitor, and Reverse Parking Distance Warning. Half of my extended family members own a Kia and speak highly of their rides during holiday gatherings. But, of course, styling and safety are always at the top of the conversation.